The Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) recently convened its 17th meeting at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome (19-20 April).  The main focus of this meeting was to explore perspectives across the CGIAR and beyond on global changes in the context of agricultural research for development – in effect, horizon scanning.

In this video, ISPC members reflect on the increasingly complex set of challenges that the developing world is facing for its food, nutrition and environmental sustainability, and some of the implications of this shifting context for the CGIAR.

Perspectives are framed around four key shifts:

  1. The political, financial and technical landscape in developing countries is changing quickly. There are many new actors in the CGIAR space. This means that there is an increasing need for a holistic framing of food and agriculture research and its interconnectedness with other sectors. 
  2. From food security to nutrition security.  While ‘hunger’ continues to resonate as a cause deserving of funding support, in a world of rapidly changing dietary preferences, the main focus of global agricultural challenges has to move from ‘feeding the planet’ to appropriately nourishing all consumers. In light of this shift, there is a need to reexamine priorities in the CGIAR portfolio and how specific research areas are designed. Much of the response needed is in the policy space and CGIAR has made good contributions here already – but could do more.
  3. Staple crops alone will not solve poverty. An exclusive focus on improving staple crop yields in developing countries is increasingly questioned as an effective pathway out of poverty for smallholder producers. This will require increasing labor productivity, and as such depends on forces much beyond the agriculture and food sector. The CGIAR needs to better respond to changing national priorities in R&D and make clear how multiple objectives are being addressed such as achieving more focus on diversified food systems.
  4. Potential of disruptive innovations to accelerate CGIAR objectives. Advances in gene-editing and synthetic biology, and genomic prediction to estimate breeding values have enormous potential to accelerate CGIAR objectives . Networking is an essential management strategy for both learning and sharing facility use for plant research and breeding, including gene editing and should be expanded. Moreover, there is a need for work on regulation regarding new breeding technologies to ensure access and benefits to poor and public sector.